Could Belly Dancing be for You?

Belly dancing is sensuous, alluring and one heck of a workout.  This ancient dance form is quickly becoming the latest fitness trend, but can it really get you in shape?  You bet, say experts.

Belly dancing is one of the most ancient art forms, designed specifically for women, not men.  While its exact origins are unclear, many cultures lay claim to belly dancing including India, Africa, Egypt and many Middle-Eastern countries.  It's said that its original intent was for fertility rituals and to help women during childbirth.  Eventually, men caught sight of it and belly dancing's purpose became entertainment.  Few Americans were aware of belly dancing before the 1893 Chicago World's Fair but it steadily gained in popularity, especially after veterans from foreign wars returned home with a taste for foreign cultures.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and belly dancing is now accepted as both an art form and exercise.  It's not just one style of dance, but instead includes variations from many countries.  Jane Archer, owner of Euphoria Studios in Portland Oregon has enjoyed belly dancing as her main form of exercise for 25 years.  Archer says, "Regardless of the style you choose, belly dance involves identifying and isolating very specific muscles to perform dance moves without moving the rest of your body. That's the challenging and fun part-being able to truly isolate an area of the body without holding tension in all the parts of your body that are not moving. This is done with a softness that accentuates the curvier, smoother feminine body. Archer's studio offers Egyptian Cabaret, Neo-Tribal Fusion, and Turkish dancing.

Edward Laskowski, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist for the Mayo Clinic says, "Belly-dancing and other types of dance can be good exercises for weight loss. In fact, you can burn as many calories belly-dancing as you can walking, swimming, or riding a bike. As with any physical activity, however, the weight-loss benefits of belly-dancing depend on several factors-including the frequency and length of your workouts and your exertion level." 

In addition to aerobic fitness, belly dancing targets core, back, leg and arm muscles.  But the biggest benefit of belly dance fitness may be the fun factor.  Any form of exercise you enjoy doing and are inspired to improve at is one you'll continue doing.  If it also makes you feel sexy-bonus!

How do you find a belly dancing class in your area?  Look in your yellow pages under dance studios, log on to, or grab a couple DVD videos.  Then pick up your finger symbols and get moving.


International Academy of Middle Eastern Danc

Edward Laskowski, Mayo Clinic